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Last Updated: Sunday, 11 February 2007, 17:19 GMT
Cameron may face more questions
By Sean Curran
BBC political correspondent

The newspaper headlines and reports that when he was a schoolboy at Eton he admitted trying cannabis certainly disrupted David Cameron's plans for a quiet Sunday with his family.

David Cameron
David Cameron was questioned repeatedly about drugs
The Conservative leader took a break from preparing lunch to talk to the reporters and photographers camped outside his Oxfordshire home.

He explained that he was not issuing any denial; he just wasn't willing to talk about his past.

And that, as far as Mr Cameron and his senior colleagues are concerned, is that.

After all, this approach served them well during the Conservative leadership campaign in 2005.

Then, David Cameron was questioned repeatedly about the extent of his personal experience of drug taking.

Opinion polls

Each time, the future Tory leader refused to answer the question, insisting on his right to a life before politics.

He said he would not bow to a "media driven agenda" and allow reporters to "dig into politicians' private lives".

By the end of the election campaign Mr Cameron was being praised for his coolness under media fire.

Perhaps more importantly, from the point of view of politicians at least, opinion polls were starting to suggest that voters no longer cared whether an MP had used drugs at school or university.

Senior Conservatives like the shadow chancellor, George Osborne, and the shadow foreign secretary, and former party leader, William Hague, are confident that the public simply are not interested in what politicians have done in the past.

It's not something that I would be proud if I'd done or my son had done but there it is - a long time ago, and people make mistakes
Peter Ainsworth, Conservative rural affairs spokesman

That view appears to be shared by their political opponents.

The Home Secretary, John Reid, described the story as a "'so what?' moment" and said he was more interested in finding out what David Cameron stood for.

The difficulty for the Conservatives is that the media have continued to ask questions about drugs and Mr Cameron.

The lack of a clear and definitive response to the questions asked during the Conservative leadership campaign left journalists wondering about what, if anything, Mr Cameron had done and how long he'd carried on doing it.

It was therefore inevitable that sooner or later a newspaper would break a story about David Cameron's time at school or university.

Mr Cameron is not shifting his position and the media probably won't change theirs, which means this story could return at a later date.

Pre-emptive strike

The former Conservative party chairman, Lord Tebbit, has suggested that David Cameron should make a political pre-emptive strike and make some sort of public statement, "because sooner or later the truth tends to come out, and it's always better to have brought it out yourself".

HAVE YOUR SAY
I I like a politician who has lived, not some goody-goody two shoes
Maureen Johnstone, Dumfries

The Democratic senator, Barrack Obama, who has just launched his campaign for the US presidency, learnt that lesson some time ago.

He published a book which contained references to his troubled teenage years and his use of cannabis and cocaine.

Mr Obama declared his baggage near the start of his political journey and has not been troubled by it since.

If David Cameron made a public statement setting out his youthful mistakes he might be able to put the issue behind him once and for all.

A more likely outcome is that the media reports would continue and that journalists would question him about every stage of his teenage and adult life.

David Cameron is trusting that British voters agree with him that a politician's past should remain private.


SEE ALSO
Cameron defiant over drug claims
11 Feb 07 |  UK Politics
MPs back Cameron's drug stance
11 Feb 07 |  UK Politics
Cameron attacked on drugs stance
04 Nov 05 |  UK Politics
Cameron pressed on drugs question
14 Oct 05 |  UK Politics

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